The best 2d platform game on the PC, bar none.
Cave Story is one of my all time favorite games, but if I described it to you, it wouldn't sound too appealing. There are many, many, many freeware games on the internet, but there are few out there that can even attempt to approach the quality of the achievements held within Cave Story. Just about everything here comes together perfectly to form one giant mound of bliss, and the coolest part: It was all done by one man, who goes by the name of "Pixel". Pixel's creation took five years to make, and it shows in every aspect of the game: From the well-drawn graphics, intricately designed levels, perfect controls, catchy music, and even a reasonable story, the game just does it all so perfectly.
Cave Story is a platform game with shooting elements. As you wander through the caves you will come across a variety of monsters and bosses which want to kill you and tear you apart. You just shoot at them to get rid of them. As you progress through the game, your options for dispatching the enemies grow in number. You start off with a weak pea shooter, but will soon be using missiles, daggers, machine guns, and even bubbles to dispatch your foes. When killed, enemies will drop golden triangles, which you can use to upgrade your weapons up to three levels of power.
And why are you shooting all of these monsters? The player is a robot who wakes up in a cave in the middle of a floating island with no memories. The plot eventually tasks the player with saving a race of bunnies from an evil human doctor who has become corrupted by an evil crown. There are a few twists thrown in for good measure, and there are multiple endings to the game.
While the gameplay sounds simple, the design of the game isn't. Except for the end, all gameplay takes place within the caves of this floating island. While this may be bland, I can assure you that it's not. You get mechanical areas, grass stages, sand stages, waterways, and more. Each area is packed with enemies, bosses, and little secrets that are fun and rewarding to find and collect.
The graphics are good for this type of game. They are all drawn to look "old" but they are executed with style nonetheless, with parallax scrolling, good character portraits, tons of sprites on-screen, and a smooth framerate.
The sounds are great too. Every sound is perfect, from the growling of the monsters, the firing of your weapons, to the babbling of characters, it all sounds wonderful.
the music is worthy of even more praise than the sounds and graphics. Just about all of the songs are catchy, and each one fits the mood of the area you are currently in, from exciting and epic to calm and moody. It truly runs the emotional gamut, yet stays of a consistently high quality.
it's hard to fault Cave Story for anything, but I will say that the color scheme can be rather drab looking at times. In addition, some may see the game as being too short and there are a lot of so-called "fetch quests" in the middle portion of the game that bog it down ever so slightly. Some may also feel that the machine gun is unbalanced: At full power, you can use it to "fly" by pointing it at the ground and using it's force to propel you skyward. But the slight flaws do not hurt the experience as a whole.
The Bottom Line
Cave Story is, to put it mildly, a masterpiece. If this wasn't a freeware game, it would be worthy of a retail release, which is more than I could say for some retail games where a free release is barely worth much. In fact, it already has been released as a retail game on several platforms including the Wii and the DS, with enhancements included to the graphics, sounds, and gameplay of the PC version. But nothing can beat free, so the PC version is the one I recommend the most.